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We will remember them

Fuller Pilch

International Vice-Captain

Emotional old day today

Big turnout for dawn services.

I don't know who the greatest cricketer that was lost in WWI, but Anthony Wilding was probably the greatest sportsman. The tennis centre that bears his name was destroyed in the Christchurch Earthquake. 14 (I think) All Blacks also lost their lives.
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The Cotter brothers were KIA, 1917.

Speech text

924 Trooper Albert Cotter, 12th Light Horse Regiment
KIA 31 October 1917

Photograph: P04366.001

Story delivered 13 January 2014

Today we remember Trooper Albert "Tibby" Cotter, who was killed in action at Beersheba, Palestine. He was the only Australian international cricketer to be killed during the First World War.

Cotter displayed many of the attributes and qualities of the typical "Digger". He was a sportsman and a reported larrikin. He was brave under fire and preferred serving with his mates to accepting promotion. A stretcher-bearer, Cotter was killed as he tended to other wounded soldiers.

Born in Sydney in 1883, the future cricketer was the sixth and youngest son of British immigrants John and Margaret Cotter. He attended Forest Lodge Public School and then Sydney Grammar School. Playing rugby as well as cricket, Cotter joined Glebe District Cricket Club in 1900 as a pace bowler and batsman. He was playing for New South Wales two years later and in 1904 the 20-year-old debuted for Australia in the fourth test against England.

This was start of a nine-year international career. Cotter toured England in 1905 and 1909, and also played against the touring South Africans in 1910-11. He had a fast but erratic style and, unusually for the time, targeted batsmen rather than their stumps. Cotter played 21 tests, taking 89 wickets for an average of 28.64 runs.

He was working as a clerk when the First World War broke out and volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force on 15 April 1915, ten days before the ANZACs landed on Gallipoli. Cotter's enlistment was a useful boost for AIF recruiting campaigns and despite his limited riding ability he was accepted into the 1st Light Horse Regiment.

After training in Egypt, Cotter joined the regiment on the Gallipoli peninsula in late November, during the final days of the campaign. Following the evacuation of the ANZACs from Gallipoli Cotter was transferred to the 12th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt in February 1916.

In April 1917, the regiment moved to Palestine and participated in the second battle of Gaza. Although this attempt to capture Gaza failed, Cotter was prominent among the stretcher-bearers who worked fearlessly all day, in the open and under enemy fire. He was promoted to lance corporal a month later but at his own request reverted to the rank of trooper in July.

Having twice failed to capture Gaza from the Ottomans, British forces next tried to outflank Gaza by taking the small town of Beersheba. The Australian Light Horse took Beersheba on 31 October in what is a now celebrated charge. The stretcher-bearers were in the thick of the fighting. The author of the official history of the Sinai and Palestine campaigns described Cotter as behaving "in action as a man without fear", but as he worked away he was shot dead at close range. Cotter was 33 years old.

His older brother Private John Cotter had been killed serving in the infantry in Belgium, just four weeks earlier on 4 October 1917.

Trooper Cotter is buried in Beersheba War Cemetery in modern-day Israel. He is also commemorated here on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

We now remember Trooper Albert "Tibby" Cotter and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.